Because You Laid Them Off

October 10, 2011 at 9:00 AM Leave a comment

The high rate of turnover among new teachers is highlighted as a major problem in urban education. I call it a symptom. Bewildered analysts are trying to figure out how to fix teacher prep or change the compensation. In reality, some people just can’t keep going back year after year seeking employment from someone who keeps firing them.

Staying employed in the same urban education district for the first three years of one’s career takes dedication and nerves of steel…Not because of the pay, the conditions, the long hours, or anything else intrinsic to the work. It’s the process of getting laid off each spring and hanging on until the last gasp of fall hiring brings you back to work.

By May each year, provisional, or non-tenured, teachers have gotten a notice that their employment status is not guaranteed. Within a few weeks each will be officially laid off. Large urban districts have well-oiled machines for these annual layoffs. By contrast, the restoration of these same jobs seems to happen with great delay. Many who would love to return to their prior assignments simply do not have the stomach or the financial wherewithal to turn down opportunities elsewhere while holding onto that verbal reassurance from a headmaster who vows to rehire them eventually.

Yes, we need good teachers from the start, people who have spent quality time in many learning environments, who have learned their own lessons well, and who are committed to growth in the profession. We need formalized teacher induction programs, facilitated by the school district and managed by the leadership within the developing teacher’s milieu. We need to compensate teachers fairly and equitably. However, none of these help us keep teachers who have found themselves too often in the water, hanging onto a lifeline that used to be attached to a ship that has since sailed away.

As we research our issues with new teacher turnover, can we differentiate among teachers who fled the field, those who got the boot for cause, and those for whom the timing just wasn’t right? In the first two cases, authentic preparation and induction processes offer remedy. In the last case, however, the urban district’s loss just might be a gain for another district with greater agility in the HR department…a critical success factor that will only grow in importance with innovations in functional teacher mobility.

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Entry filed under: Career Arcs, Teacher Effectiveness.

Promote Teacher Quality with Career Mobility – Not More Regulation Updating Decision Architecture for Student Success

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